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A U.S. Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit carries a baby during the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan last summer.

President Joe Biden signed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act in late December, allowing the memorial to be placed at one of three proposed sites on the National Mall.

The three possible sites are Constitution Gardens, the JFK Hockey Fields or West Potomac Park, said Michael Rodriguez, president of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation.

Rodriguez said the importance of passing the bill cannot be overstated.

“Not many people thought we would be able to accomplish that. We were successful because of a bipartisan group of veterans in the house … They can relate to this memorial more than most,” Rodriguez said. The group is known as the For Country Caucus, and Rodriguez cited the help of other veteran service organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Association.

The memorial will honor all who served or sacrificed in the international military campaign by the United States after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in an effort to defeat terrorists.

Terry and Beth Burgess, Gold Star parents from Texas whose son, Staff Sgt. Bryan Burgess, was killed in 2001, said their “hearts are truly warmed knowing that Bryan’s sacrifice for family, country, and freedom will be memorialized in this tribute at our nation’s capital.”

They expressed appreciation for everyone involved in getting approval for the memorial. “We’re sure that every Gold Star family from the Global War on Terrorism would agree that this Memorial is going to be a treasured place to gather in the spirit of turning grief into honor.”

Ken Hersh, vice chair of the memorial foundation, said there is still a long road ahead before the memorial becomes reality, especially because it will rely on private donations.

“As we begin a more in-depth process of evaluating potential locations, … our goal is to create an inclusive and enduring place of honor for all who served and were impacted by this conflict, whether in uniform or otherwise,” Hersh said. “Since this memorial will not be built with any government funding, we will continue to depend on the generosity and support of Americans who share our commitment to the cause.”

Rodriguez told InsideNoVa that the foundation is still going through site selection steps, including required approvals by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, the National Capital Planning Commission, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, National Park Service, and other agencies before the monument can be built.

Rodriguez said the design will be determined by the chosen site.

“It’s important to understand that location affects design and design affects location,” he added. “We’ve not gotten into a design, and can’t get to that before we know exactly how big the site will be.”

Major wars of the past century have been memorialized on the National Mall, but the Global War on Terrorism was not only the nation’s longest war, but also one fought by volunteers who comprise only about 1% of the population. Rodriguez said he sees that as a testament to fellow citizens.

“Less than 3 million Americans stepped into a combat zone. When you look at that 1%, it’s important to focus on the strength, resiliency, effectiveness and dedication of that 1%,” Rodriguez said. “It is our duty as Americans to honor that amazing population that chose to do so.”

Paul Lara covers the military beat. Reach him at plara@insidenova.com

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